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Lebanon Cabinet pushes back against threats from hostages' families

From left, Ministers Hussein Hajj Hasan, Ali Hasan Khalil and Samir Moqbel attend a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lebanese officials pushed back against the street protests organized by families of captured soldiers, with Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas saying that some of the relatives' remarks were frightening.

Speaking to Al-Akhbar in remarks published Friday, Derbas said the government strongly resented statements made by the families during protests in the north and the capital.

"Protesters in the Qalamoun accused the government of being too strict and demanded negotiations while others asked for a military solution and accused the Cabinet of cowardice. This was a scary scene,” he said.

"What's with the families of the captured soldiers threatening [to incite] a civil war while their sons are still safe?"

During a protest in Beirut outside the Grand Serail as the Cabinet was meeting to discuss the crisis, their families warned that a civil war could erupt if more soldiers were slaughtered.

Others hinted that some of the soldiers belonged to prominent clans in the Bekaa Valley that could take matters into their own hands, referring to possible retaliatory attacks against Syrian refugees there.

Some of them also asked Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi to trade the 24 Cabinet ministers for the soldiers and policemen held by ISIS and Nusra Front for nearly a month.

Fears for the lives of the captured soldiers grew after ISIS slaughtered one of the soldiers, 1st Sgt. Ali al-Sayyed, in a bid to pressure the government to negotiate with them.

“They should learn from the father of Ali al-Sayyed, who rose above his pain and placed his confidence in the efforts the government was exerting to release the soldiers,” Derbas told An-Nahar.

Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi also expressed his concern over the street protests, saying some parties were provoking sectarian sentiments to incite chaos.

Nusra Front released five Sunni soldiers last week, saying it would hold on to Shiite and Christian soldiers to exchange them with Islamist detainees held since 2007 in Roumieh Prison.

ISIS released a photo earlier this week showing the captured soldiers with a caption that read: “ISIS is sharpening its knife. Are you going to negotiate or not?

The government has refused to agree to a swap deal, saying the government would seek the help of countries that might have leverage over radical groups.

 

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Summary

Lebanese officials pushed back against the street protests organized by families of captured soldiers, with Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas saying that some of the relatives' remarks were frightening.

Speaking to Al-Akhbar in remarks published Friday, Derbas said the government strongly resented statements made by the families during protests in the north and the capital.

Fears for the lives of the captured soldiers grew after ISIS slaughtered one of the soldiers, 1st Sgt.

Nusra Front released five Sunni soldiers last week, saying it would hold on to Shiite and Christian soldiers to exchange them with Islamist detainees held since 2007 in Roumieh Prison.


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